(part 1 of 2)

Both of the major sects of VaPostori were founded in 1932 in eastern Zimbabwe by
similar ‘prophets’, JOHANE MASOWE (1915-1973) and JOHANE MARANKE (1912-1963).
According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the Maranke group is the largest African Initiated Church in Zimbabwe, with 910,000 adherents in 1995 and over 1.5 million in 2015.
The Masowe group is smaller, numbering over one million in 2015 and another half a million throughout 9 African countries.

Police records from the white colonial regime of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) indicate that JOHANE MASOWE (whose original name was Shoniwa Masedza Tandi Moyo) first got the attention of the authorities when he was arrested in 1932 for traveling around preaching without proper documents. In the police interrogation, he explained that he began having severe pains in the head that culminated in a dream that he had died. After that he heard voices saying that his name was now John, which he interpreted to mean John the Baptist. This new name carried a mandate to preach to the African people. His commission came from spending forty days in prayer on a hill during which time he did
not sleep and survived only on wild honey. A voice from a burning bush told him his
mission: “Tell the natives to throw away their witchcraft medicines, not to commit
adultery or rape.” He insisted to police, “I really do believe that I have been sent from
heaven to carry out religious work among the natives. I think I am ‘John the Baptist,’ as
the voice told me so. No human being has guided me in my teachings.” After these experiences, his headaches ceased.

Both groups of VaPostori (or ”Apostols”) fit the category of “revitalization movements” which may arise when a culture is under pressure from such things as foreign domination or economic marginalization. In the case of the VaPostori, both factors were present: Africans in Rhodesia were coming increasingly under white domination in the British colony and everyone was suffering economically during the worldwide Great Depression.

Johane Masowe preached in reaction to white domination, promising a better situation for Africans without white influence. While he harkened back to some African traditions, he insisted that other traditions be stopped, thus creating a New Religious Movement containing a mixture of both old and new. Masowe
VaPostori are a curious blend of African Traditional Religion and Christianity with Old
Testament practices being prominent. Masowe taught that Africans should burn the
religious books of the European, as forefathers did not have books. He suggested that the Bible, hymn books and the New Testament should be destroyed, together with all other religious books. Politically he felt that the Europeans used education and the Bible as an instrument of racial oppression, considering that books had to be bought with colonial money and the VaPostori movement was essentially nativistic. It seems that he was illiterate initially (this could be another reason why he rejected the Bible) and later claimed to have received the capacity to read the Bible through a miracle (someone must have taught him to read, so he showed interest in the Bible and quoted portions of it, still affirming that the Holy Spirit gave him directly biblical thoughts). Johane in a speech thanked missionaries for teaching people the Bible, thus laying a foundation for his ministry.

–Masowe felt that God had spoken to him directly and that the God of the Bible was the same as the Shona creator God, Mwari, from the traditional religion. Bible translators used ‘Mwari’ as the word used to translate ‘God’, just as in Muslim countries Bible translators used name ”Allah” for God.
When eventually Masowe accepted the Bible, he still objected to how Europeans used it. This was because white missionaries tended to have a moderate view regarding miracles, while Masowe wanted ‘MIRACLES ON DEMAND’.

–Johane founded the ‘GOSPEL OF GOD’ church. Out of this church came a group called Johane Masowe yeCHISHANU (JMC). The JMC church established itself as a distinct entity in 1942 and made the claim that they do not need the Bible as their leaders received the Word of God “LIVE AND DIRECT.”

–Masowe’s followers came to regard him as MORE THAN A PROPHET. The current website of the Gospel of God Church in NAIROBI (, Kenya contains sophisticated arguments to support the notion that Masowe is indeed equivalent to Christ. These explain that Jesus had a limited ministry to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt.15:24) and so could not have fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 19:20 that a Savior would come to rescue those oppressed in Egypt. They believe Johane Masowe, however, was sent to liberate Africans, a Savior just as Jesus.

–One of the differences between the VaPostori (”Apostles’ in Shona) of Masowe and Maranke, is that the followers of Masowe are not permitted to work for anyone OUTSIDE their own group. Thus a Masowe disciple is required to learn a trade by which he or she can contribute to the welfare of the group; any other work is unacceptable. There are however variations within different Masowe groups.
Maranke does not allow members to use medicine or to go to clinics, they have their own healing centers in which they use traditional and occultist ‘healing’ methods, which causes a high mortality rate; in their services occultism is very present: holy water, stones, witchcraft rituals:

–Maranke allows POLYGAMY, Masowe officially does not; Maranke does not allow adherents to go to hospital, education, jobs outside their community;

–In addition, the vast majority of VaPostori do not have CHURCH BUILDINGS, but meet under trees. Mukonyora understands this as part of Masowe doctrine: “Today the name Johane Masowe is associated with communities which pray in open air venues called masowe [wilderness], preach repentance and carry out baptisms in rivers and/or dams called ‘Jordans.’ But some Masowe groups do own buildings for gatherings.
…end of part 1 of 2